Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
One may understandably, but unfortunately mistakenly, assume that at this point in the pandemic federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates have run their course, and Idahoans can freely choose whether they want to vaccinate or continue with vaccinations. However, some, including those who serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, continue to face disciplinary actions, trouble with security clearances, lost training and advancement opportunities or other negative consequences for choosing not to get vaccinated for COVID-19. A provision I backed requiring the U.S. Department of Defense to rescind the mandate that members of the Armed Forces be vaccinated for COVID-19 was included in the House and Senate negotiated National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. This is a welcome first step in ending these types of mandates and the harm they have caused. However, the provision does not rescind the related penalties and forced separations imposed on military personnel, and we must not let up in repealing those penalties and reinstating all servicemembers unfairly discharged.
I have written and talked considerably about my opposition to federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. I continue to maintain it is a matter of individual, personal choice, and I have serious concerns about the Administration’s sweeping, one-size-fits-all vaccination mandates. Therefore, I have joined numerous efforts to oppose vaccine mandates. This includes numerous actions to specifically repeal federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates and related reprimands and terminations for our nation’s servicemembers, including:
These are just some of the many steps I have taken to oppose the imposition of federal vaccine mandates on not only servicemembers and federal workers, but also health care workers; essential workers, including truck drivers; employees at private businesses; outfitters and guides; and more.
We should never forget the enormous toll the pandemic has had on far too many lives. At the same time, Americans deserve federal policies that reflect current circumstances and the advances made in our fight against the virus. Recognizing the changing conditions since the pandemic began, in November, the Senate rightly passed with my support a resolution I co-sponsored to terminate the COVID-19 national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a similar resolution I also co-sponsored.
Forcing vaccine mandates on servicemembers threatens our military’s readiness by unfairly terminating many who are ready and willing to serve our nation. I will continue to fight to ensure servicemembers are not punished nor terminated for exercising individual liberties to choose whether or not to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and the federal government stays within its authorities entrusted to it by the Constitution.
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